Mayor Shutters Children's Produce Stand For Lack of Permits

Two girls were told their produce stand violated local zoning laws.

ByABC News
August 21, 2008, 12:02 PM

Aug. 21, 2008— -- Call it a rite of passage: children by the roadside peddling their homemade goodies to adults who are more than eager to drop a few cents into a makeshift cashbox.

But Katie and Sabrina Lewis' veggie stand, in the town of Clayton, Calif., where they sold homegrown watermelons for $1, has been shuttered by town officials who told the girls' parents that their daughters' venture violated local zoning ordinances.

"I think that they're wrong," dad Mike Lewis said of the town officials. "Kids should be able to be kids."

The stand started about two years ago when Katie, now 11, decided she wanted to start selling produce from the family's ever-expanding garden. The family had been growing its own fruits and vegetables on its half-acre lot and giving away armfuls of extras to friends and family.

"I thought, 'No one's going to buy melons,'" Lewis said, before telling his eldest daughter to "go ahead."

Two hours later, Katie had sold out of melons.

Lewis said his daughter, now assisted by 3-year-old Sabrina, operated her stand on weekends, maybe 20 or so times during the year. They'd bring in about $10 to $20 a week.

"I take it and once I've got about $20 to $30, I'll bring it to the bank and put it in my bank account for college," Katie told

Lewis said the family got a call after the stand went up from a town employee saying that as long as the stand ran only on weekends it was fine.

But Clayton Mayor Gregory Manning said he first heard of the girls' operation this past April, after two residents called to ask if it was legal. Two months later, a police officer was sent to the stand to tell the Lewises that the girls were violating zoning regulations that prohibit commercial activities in a residential area.

The stand also violates health regulations, he said, which state that food can't be sold without a permit.

And while only two citizens complained, Manning said, "I find that for every person who calls you or writes a letter, there are 100 that feel the same."